Friday, October 22, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 scores $6.3 million in midnight screenings, a record for an R-rated film. What does it mean for the opening weekend?

Beating a week-old record, Paramount's Paranormal Activity 2 grossed $6.3 million in midnight screenings last night. That beats the R-rated midnight record set by Watchmen ($4.6 million). Using midnight totals to tabulate a film's opening weekend is a risky gambit, but here are some numbers to chew on. Midnight showings can run around 5-8% of the opening weekend take (Jackass 3D, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Spider-Man 3, and Iron Man 2). But more frontloaded films can mean more frontloaded midnight showings, as suggested by Watchmen (8%) The Dark Knight (11%) and The Twilight Saga: New Moon (18%). Not helping matters is that many of the more frontloaded pictures to do significant midnight damage (the last two Harry Potter films, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Last Airbender, the Transformers films, the entire Star Wars prequel series) did not open on a Friday, which makes them almost useless as comparative examples.

If that $6.3 million represents just 7% of its opening weekend, then Paranormal Activity 2 is on its way to a $90 million opening weekend. So, if we can't wrap our brains around the idea of Paranormal Activity 2 pulling down a near-$100 million opening weekend, we have to assume that the film's genre and history make it heavily (REALLY heavily) slanted to appeal towards a midnight audience (to say nothing of how well it will do in afternoon showings this weekend). If it plays as frontloaded as The Twilight Saga: New Moon (probably the largest midnight-frontloading for a Friday opening on record), then that means that $6.3 million in midnights means a $35 million opening weekend, which is about what the pundits have been predicting. Obviously we'll know for sure which way the wind blows in about ten-to-twelve hours, but I do enjoy doing the math when the opportunity arises. Anyway, so if Paranormal Activity 2 ends up with a $25-30 million opening day, don't be too shocked. But hopefully Paramount will eventually release more stills, so I don't have to keep recycling the single screen-shot from the movie that the studio has thus far released.

Scott Mendelson

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